GB News breached impartiality rules when presenter Mark Steyn used official health data to draw misleading conclusions about Covid-19 boosters which “materially misled” viewers, the media regulator has found .
Ofcom said Stan had used UK Health Protection Agency (UKHSA) figures to falsely claim in a broadcast broadcast on 21 April last year that there was evidence that a third booster could lead to higher infections, was causing hospitalizations and deaths.
The investigation was launched in July 2022 after the watchdog received four complaints from viewers who said the presenter had drawn “dangerous” and “fatally flawed conclusions”. Stan was one of the TV channel’s lead presenters before resigning last month as he sought to pay a personally issued fine after being found in breach of the broadcasting code.
Ofcom said Stan’s comparison of groups of similar size, who did and did not receive a third Covid vaccine, “only draws one conclusion from the comparison and does not take into account differences in the age or health of individuals in the two groups”. was confusing”. It said the program failed to reflect official reports from the UKHSA, which said conclusions about vaccine efficacy should not be drawn from raw data.
The regulator said of the breach, “Overall, we conclude that this factual program could result in viewers making important decisions about their own health, and was therefore potentially harmful and materially misleading.”
The independent factchecking website Full Fact previously stated that Stan’s claim was based on a “misreading of vaccine surveillance reports, which notably include a caveat warning that the data cannot be used to determine vaccine effectiveness”. .
Responding to the regulator’s findings on Monday, Glenn Tarman, head of policy at Full Fact, said GB News viewers deserved information they could trust.
“Full Fact has repeatedly contacted GB News regarding the baseless or false claims made on their programs without any response. Every broadcaster must be prepared to get their facts right, support what they say with evidence, and correct the record when they are wrong,” Terman said.
“We hope GB News will correct the record in the light of Ofcom’s findings today.”
UK broadcasting law requires factual programs or depictions of factual matters must not mislead viewers. GB News faces a second formal investigation into its coverage of the coronavirus vaccine after author Naomi Wolf claimed women were being harmed on The Mark Steyn Show, again in an attempt to “destroy British civil society”. had to face.
Stan, who has been off air since last year following two heart attacks, previously told fans on his personal website that he used to call GB News’ in-house compliance officer “Ofcom’s bitch” when they argued what they were allowed to say. ,
The channel has regularly provided a platform for individuals critical of the scientific response to Covid and has attracted a steady stream of Ofcom complaints about its output, although few have progressed to the level of formal investigation.
The right-wing TV channel, which has now been found in breach of the broadcasting code for the first time, started 2023 with an effort to make its operations more “disciplined”.
GB News chairman Alan McCormick said all staff would be put on mandatory Ofcom training to avoid repeatedly flouting the regulator’s broadcasting code.
A spokesperson for the channel said: “We are disappointed by Ofcom’s finding. Our role in the media is to ask tough questions, point out inconsistencies in government policy and hold public bodies to account when the facts are right.
Mark Stein’s program did just that. We support their right to challenge the status quo by examining the small but clear risks of COVID vaccines.”
He added: “He drew a reasonable conclusion from the facts. However, he drew only one conclusion.
“We accept that Data offered a number of valid interpretations, and he should have clarified this. Had he done so, the story would have remained within the broad liberties that Ofcom’s broadcasting code allows.